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25 December 2020

Our usual "Merry Christmas" to you has become, this year, "Happy Christmas." We're shaking it up because Christmas is different this year. The toy store is dark.

For the 17 years we've lived in this neighborhood, we shopped for toys at Ambassador Toys on West Portal Ave. It was fun to wander through the various sections that showcased present for every kid from toddlers to teens.

The stuffed animals were marvelous, including the ponies on a stick and the hand puppets. The educational toys in bright colors promised engaging fun and a scholarship down the road.

There are two ways to look at this picture.

We'd often linger near the musical instruments arranged by age group, smiling at the unnerving noise a drum, kazoo, tambourine or ukulele might visit on some household.

There was, along the back wall, all sorts of sports equipment with which the principles of fair play might be learned.

And the wooden trains were worth looking over too, as you imagined a world of your own.

But then the store closed, the owners retiring, and no one stepping up to keep it in business. There is an online store now but it only sells collectible dolls. Not at all the same sort of business.

Walking by the other day while we were looking for Christmas scenes, we saw the still empty store front. So we took a picture to remember this year by.

But, thinking about it today, there are two ways to look at this picture.

On the one hand, it is hard to be merry without toys. Ask any kid of any age. Dreams are dashed, hopes spoiled, darkness never dissipates.

But on the other, this is a store that has given all that it had to give. In that sense, it's an inspiration to be more generous, more kind, more considerate. To give what you have.

So Happy Christmas. May we never forget this one.

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